- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

Lunch with McCain

Perhaps under the category of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, presidential counselor Karen Hughes was seen having lunch in the Senate dining room yesterday with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

Mrs. Hughes asked for the meeting with Mr. McCain, who has been the subject of rumors about defecting from his party. He has also introduced several bills lately that the administration opposes, including a Democratic-favored patients´ bill of rights.

Asked if the health-care legislation was discussed over lunch, Mr. McCain said, "Not really. We discussed the fact that it´s on the floor, but not the issues."

"We got to know each other rather well in the campaign, so it was more of a social occasion," he said of Mrs. Hughes, who played a key role in the Bush campaign´s defeat of Mr. McCain in the Republican presidential primary.

Schundler surges

"A shocking new poll shows the Republican organization´s choice to run for governor in New Jersey, ex-Rep. Bob Franks, has slid 15 points behind insurgent conservative Bret Schundler," the New York Post reports.

"Schundler, the mayor of Jersey City, has surged to 54 percent among likely GOP primary voters, compared to 39 percent for Franks, in a Quinnipiac University poll out ," reporter Deborah Orin writes.

"GOP strategists say Franks´ problem is he´s been tagged as the product of a backroom deal to replace ethics-challenged acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco."

A former 'bellwether´

"It´s a slow news day when the top story in the New York Times is a presidential poll, especially a trumped-up one saying George W. Bush´s popularity has 'diminished considerably´ when in fact it´s down only 7 points, to 53 percent, over the last three months. This is perhaps a cause for modest concern at the White House, but no more surely nothing that warrants the screaming, APB-treatment of the Times," John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru wrote yesterday at nationalreview.com.

"If the Times is so desperate for a political-trend story, it may want to examine Tuesday´s special congressional election in Virginia´s , where Republican Randy Forbes defeated Democrat Louise Lucas to take the seat held for 18 years by the late Rep. Norman Sisisky, who died in March. Except for one thing: Forbes won, which means his victory can´t possibly be interpreted to represent much at all," the writers said.

"Last month, the Times thought the race was 'a bellwether´ that would provide 'an answer of sorts to the question of whether Republicans can retain control of the House.´ , though, the story was worth a mere 236 words on page A16. Perhaps tomorrow the Times will print a correction: 'On May 20, the Times called a Forbes-Lucas race a political "bellwether." Following the GOP victory, we no longer believe this to be the case.´"

The no-news networks

"Last week, when a federal district judge issued a ruling which advanced a liberal cause, forcing an employer to cover prescription contraceptives for female employees, ABC, CBS and NBC all ran full stories even though the decision impacted only one employer in Washington State," wrote the Media Research Center´s Brent Baker. "But a week later, when the Washington Times reported how a federal judge ruled unconstitutional Alaska´s ban on donations from labor unions and business to political parties , thus potentially undermining the media´s cherished McCain-Feingold campaign speech regulatory scheme, the networks ignored it."

Another divorce

Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and his wife, Melanie, are ending their marriage of almost 24 years. He´s the second Mississippi governor in a row to split with his wife.

"Both of us agree that fault is not the issue," Mr. Musgrove, 45, said yesterday.

The Musgroves married Aug. 12, 1977, and have a son, Jordan, 15, and a daughter, Carmen Rae, 13. The couple separated May 31, and he said he planned to file divorce papers yesterday.

He and Melanie Musgrove, 43, will share custody of the children, and for now, they will all continue to live in the Governor´s Mansion, he said. The pair will also continue to jointly hold events at the mansion, he said.

Rumors of a marital rift had circulated for months, but the couple had denied them. The governor said yesterday that he had not had an extramarital relationship and that no one else was involved in their decision to split, the Associated Press reports.

Republican Kirk Fordice, Mr. Musgrove´s predecessor as governor, and his wife of 40 years, Pat, filed for divorce in late 1999, shortly before he left office. Within weeks after the divorce was final, he married Memphis widow Ann Creson.

Feeding trial lawyers

"Anyone who thinks patients need more rights of some sort to deal with HMOs should know that this would already be the law of the land, passed by Congress and signed by George W. Bush, were it not for the trial lawyers´ insistence that Tom Daschle cut them a side of beef," the Wall Street Journal says.

"The right to independent reviews, access to outside experts or specialists no matter what the HMO says, coverage for emergency medical care — all the perceived fixes for HMO horrors now have bipartisan support," the newspaper said in an editorial.

Biden vs. Rumsfeld

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Delaware Democrat who is now chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told contributors to his 2002 re-election campaign that he will do what he can to hinder Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld while promoting the views of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, whom Mr. Biden described as a sort of honorary Democrat.

Speaking to donors in Boston last Friday, Mr. Biden "offered a tutorial on the philosophic divisions within the Bush administration," Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi writes.

"In a nutshell, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is the good guy and, according to Biden, 'the only man in America who doesn´t understand he´s a Democrat´; and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is the 'movement conservative´ who stands for everything liberal Democrats abhor."

Mr. Biden, describing the defense secretary as a unilateralist and the secretary of state as a multilateralist, said he would give the latter "cover." If President Bush sides with Mr. Rumsfeld over Mr. Powell, "we´re in deep trouble," Mr. Biden said.

A new magazine

Toward Tradition, a national coalition of Jews and Christians, has started a magazine by the same name.

David Klinghoffer, former literary editor of National Review, will edit the quarterly. The conservative group said Toward Tradition magazine "will apply the insights of Torah — wisdom conveyed in Jewish oral and written traditions — to American politics and culture."

The magazine´s audience "will be Jews and Christians interested in smart, right-leaning commentary on the intersection of politics, culture and faith," the group said.

The first issue of the magazine has already been mailed. It can be viewed on the Internet at www.towardtradition.org.

Nose to the grindstone

"Former President Bill Clinton has undertaken a whirlwind world tour since leaving office in order to raise the cash he needs to pay off some $4 million in legal bills left over from his White House scandal days," UPI says in its "Capitol Comment" column.

"So far, Clinton has collected an estimated $1 million in appearance fees — at about $100,000 a pop — on the international lecture circuit through Europe and Asia. Former first lady Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, is said to be pushing Clinton out the door to earn the other $3 million soonest. The former president has long talked about putting the debt to rest, however. Next stop, Latin America."

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